The presence and influence of the Basques in the history of the New World is constant, and it has been since at least its discovery by Europeans, as well as in the Europeans’ colonization and in the birth of the New World republics.
Regardless of the presence of Europeans on the other side of the Atlantic from before 1492, the arrival of the expedition led by Christopher Columbus marked the official date of that discovery. From the first moment, at least, Basques were present in the Americas, and so was their language, Basque.
The presence of Basques on Columbus’ voyages is marked not only by a list of sailors from the Basque Country that were a part of his crews, but also by a curious anecdote that speaks not only of the language’s presence, but also its weight and influence.
We learned this thanks to an article published in the 1985 Yearbook of the Julio de Urquijo Basque Philology Seminary written by Juan Gil Fernández, professor of Latin Philology and member of the Royal Academy of the Language, in addition to one of the leading experts on Christopher Columbus.
The article analyzes a letter this sailor and explorer sent in 1500 to denounce the usurpation of his governorship of the Indies by Francisco de Bobadilla, that is, at one of the lowest points in his life.
In this letter, the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” uses the Basque word agur to address the wet nurse of Prince Juan de Castilla. That indicates that not only was Columbus used to using this term, but he knew that the recipient of the letter would not be surprised by it.
It’s yet another small but very important detail that we can add to the list of the great history of this powerful word.
ASJU – 1985 – Euskadi
Una palabra vasca en un texto de Cristóbal Colón
«… Fago juramento que cantidad de hombres an ido alas Indias que no mereçian el agur para con Dios y con el mundo, y agora buelven alIa (i.e., a Castilla y Aragón).»
(Follow)A BASQUE WORD IN A TEXT BY CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS